Receiving, Sack Leaders Highlight Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl

By Jimmy Johnson

There will be plenty of talent on display between the the UCLA Bruins and the Baylor Bears in tonight’s Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl.

But once the Bruins and Bears stroll on out out their respective tunnels at Qualcomm Stadium, fans might want to keep their attention on two of the top leaders in the nation in receiving yards and sacks.

UCLA Bruins
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

After the Bruins experimented with Anthony Barr on offense for his first two seasons and didn’t see any results worthy enough of keeping him a ball carrier or receiver, they switched him to linebacker and the results have been astonishing for the junior: His 13.5 sacks lead the nation.

Barr has gone from a hardly used running back to UCLA’s best edge rusher. The San Pedro, Calif. native’s freakish athletic ability as a skill position player couldn’t get him snaps in the Bruins’ backfield, but head coach Jim Mora Jr. and has his staff made a bold move by putting Barr in a position where he can use his speed as an advantage over offensive linemen.

He still needs to improve other areas of his game, but linebackers/defensive ends who get to the quarterback are always welcomed and embraced in the NFL.

Barr’s standout junior season already has NFL scouts drooling over the idea of seeing him try and do it again next season. If he has another productive year rushing the quarterback, he’ll be considered a defensive player to watch out for the 2014 NFL Draft.

Baylor Bears
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

While Barr’s draft stock might be on hold for one more season, Baylor receiver Terrance Williams has the opportunity to close his senior season on another positive note, all while increasing his stock in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Once former Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III and receiver Kendall Wright bolted for the NFL last season, some feared Williams’ stock could take a hit this year, but even the departures of two of the Bruins’ most dynamic offensive players ended up not hurting him.

Williams followed up a stellar junior season – 59 catches for 957 yards and 11 receiving touchdowns – by improving on nearly every receiving statistic with 95 catches, 1,764 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. What might be most impressive is Williams’ average of 147 receiving yards per game this season.

Even though Williams doesn’t have the same world-class speed as Wright, his speed by far above average and will be considered a late or early second round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. At 6-2, 205 lbs, Williams has a rare combination of size and speed that NFL teams covet. He could develop into an eventual No. 1 receiver for some teams, or even one the better No. 2 receivers.

Barr and Williams are two great reasons why college football fans should watch tonight’s Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl between two talented and high-scoring teams.

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